- In a bid to address the festering problem of vacancies in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the government has amended rules to allow the court to constitute single member Benches.
- Current rules require that every Bench of the NGT consist of “two or more” members and is made up of at least one judicial and one expert member. The balance of judicial and independent experts was necessary to ensure that technical aspects of disputes were adequately addressed. The NGT specialises in adjudicating on matters relating to environment, forests and harm to people or property due to the neglect of environmental obligations of infrastructure projects.
- A notification from the Union Environment Ministry, however, relaxes this requirement. “…Provided that in exceptional circumstances, the chairperson may constitute a single member Bench…” says the notification published on December 1. It doesn’t specify what ‘exceptional’ constitutes.
- A senior official in the Environment Ministry said this was a ‘stop gap’ arrangement, but emphasised that this didn’t imply a chairperson could now appoint a new member.
- We have a problem with filling up vacancies and this is just to expedite matters.
- For instance, if someone retires in one Bench the chairperson can transfer someone to fill the vacancy.